Evolution of Jewish Law


Written Law

In a written form, Jewish Law is much more accessible to the average Jew and provides definite answers for religious matters.

The most prominent type of Written law is the Torah. The giving of the Torah began on Mount Sinai. The Torah consists of 5 books: Bereshit (genesis), Shemot (exodus), Vayikra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (numbers) and Devarim (Deuteronomy).

Neviim is a collection of religous books about the lives and views of important prophets in Jewish History. These prophets include: Yeshoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel, Melakhim, Yeshayahu, Yirmeyahu and Yechezquel.

The Ketuvim are a collection of individual stories, philosophical essays, songs and poems. Moreover, it also contains a continuation of the historical narrative from the exile into Babylon until the return to the land of Israel and the construction of the second temple.

Oral Law

When? Where? How?

After revelation at Mount Sinai, the torah was written into five books however the rest of the revelation was not written down at that time period. It was eventually written down in the Mishna during the Babylonian exile. The Mishna covers many discussions and decisions of scholars and rabbis from approximately 200 BCE to 200 CE. Most of the Mishna was written down at the time of persecution of the Jews when the fear that oral law could potentially be forgotten was raised. The Mishna contains six books: Moed (laws of shabat and holy days), Nashim (women), Nezikin (civil and criminal law), Taharot (purity), Zeraim (agricultural law) and Kodshim (holy matters).

The Mishna+ Gemara= Talmud. The Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) was compiled in the year 500 C.E. by two Babylonian sages: Rav Ashi and Ravina. The Talmud Bavli is the one studied most today.

In the 3 centuries after the compilation of the Mishna, many discussions were raised. These discussions were recorded in writing and formed the Gemara.

Throughout Jewish history, many commentators commented on various written passages within Jewish texts. These commentators include: Rashi, Rambam and Tosfot.

Many volumes written on Jewish Law bought the need of codification. Codification makes Jewish law accessible and gives a definite answer. On the other hand, it reduces diversity of opinion and minimizes discussion. These codes include: Shulhan Aruch and Mishna Torah written around the middle ages.

The responsa are made up of well-respected rabbis who have been asked a specific question, and include a full description of the situation, references to the applicable Talmudic passages, the rabbi's answer, and the reasoning behind his opinion. Responsa began to function in the Middle Ages and continue to the present day.

Our Jewish contribution

Empathize, respect, commemorate and believe. That is what we stand for.